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Chiwetel Ejiofor Stars in ’12 Years a Slave’

Already a seasoned Shakespearean star in England, Chiwetel Ejiofor is finally getting his due stateside thanks to his moving performance in Steve McQueen’s acclaimed feature 12 Years a Slave.

Some careers take off in an immediate blaze of fanfare. Others take their time simmering over a slow-burning fire until reaching their boiling point. Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (pronounced Chew-eh-tell Edge-ee-oh-for) would fall into the latter category. But all of the Oscar buzz circling his powerful performance in 12 Years a Slave–directed by Steve McQueen, an award-winning Black indie filmmaker–has added a keg of gasoline to the mix. Translation: He’s about to blow up.

Check out these exclusive outtakes from our interview with Ejiofor:

ON BEING A BLACK ACTOR:

“It’s always a double-sided thing. My experiences have been overall positive. I’ve always worked on projects I’ve been interested in. So to have no sense of the disadvantage is the greatest advantage, because you are free to explore your thing but you are not held back by feeling that you’re disadvantaged. I would encourage anybody to get rid of the sense of being disadvantaged because that is the one thing that can hold you back more than anything. It’s an eternal struggle. On the other hand I do see in the general scheme of things there are a lot of people who come up against barriers and come up against struggles…. But you want to get to a situation where there’s no great story that’s not being told.”

CELEBRITY VS. GOING HOLLYWOOD

“It’s always been to be an actor. I’ve never attempted or really considered being a celebrity. How does one do that? Do you go to celebrity school?”

BALANCING WORK AND FAMILY:

“As I’m getting older I’m  getting better at not allowing work to be completely so all encompassing that I have to shut off everything else and not allowing not shutting everything else off to effect the quality of your work. I’m maturing and recognizing that certain things are important for a rounded life experience.”

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